Hunt The Wren 2012 – St Stephen’s Day Manx Tradition (Boxing Day)

I took this image this morning opposite the Woodbourne Hotel in Alexander Drive in Douglas.

The custom of ‘Hunting the Wren’ has long been an Isle of Man tradition, and is still kept alive each St Stephen’s Day.

It is thought that it is descended from Celtic mythology and the tradition may also have been influenced by Scandinavian settlers during the Viking invasions of the 8th and 10th centuries.

Historically, groups of young men known as ‘wren boys’ would hunt a wren and then tie the sacred bird to the top of a pole, decorated with holly sprigs and ribbons. With blackened faces, the group would sing at houses and receive for money, presents or food for their efforts. Those that gave money to the boys would receive a feather from the wren as thanks. The collected money was then used to host a village dance.

Superstitious Manx fishermen were known not to venture out to sea without having first secured a feather to ensure their safe return. Wrens’ feathers were also considered a general preservative against witchcraft.

The image was captured on my Nikon S8200 Camera resized and cropped in Adobe Photoshop CS6.

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Hunt the Wren 2012 - © Peter Killey

3 thoughts on “Hunt The Wren 2012 – St Stephen’s Day Manx Tradition (Boxing Day)”
  1. This may be a sily question, but traditionally, how did they manage to catch the wren? Pulling out the fesathers can’t have been easy either.

  2. Thanks for posting this – very interesting as it’s a subject I am very interested in, having seen the Wren House at St. Fagans many years ago.

    In fact, Hunting the Wren features in me novel:

  3. Enjoyed your snippet of history on the wren. I am helping my son with a heritage project on the history of The Wren. In Newfoundland The Wren is still practised on St. Stephen’s day in a few communities around the province. It is amazing that a tradition hundreds of years old remains fairly intact to the present day. The wren song also remains much the same as our Irish ancestors sang. Thank you

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